The very first pizza I ever made was in 6th grade.
We had one of those fake business-town type things in class. We had things like a president, treasurer, and business owners. We all had a job to teach us about money and finance. For me, I decided to do a pizza shop, so I bought English muffins, pizza sauce, cheese and pepperoni and made tiny pizzas.
I sold them for “ohtoes” (what we called dollars). Funny story: I happened to know the treasurer very well (he will remain nameless, but he may or may not have commented on a prior blog entry) and he allowed me to borrow the template for the money and I counterfeited many, many ohtoes with a copy machine. I was a counterfeiter as well as a business owner.
And that was my first experience with pizza…
My second experience with pizza was when I was about 22. I opened my own little pizza shop with a couple of guys that I worked with. We were working full-time jobs and doing the pizza shop. I was a young man who’d never even though of owning a restaurant or being involved with that kind of thing and even though we only lasted about half a year, the experience that I gained from that place was immeasurable. Fond memories of being there.
I had a lot of excellent employees. The first pizza that I rolled out and baked came out as flat as can be. Luckily I had great people working for me and they were good and gracious enough to help their quote unquote boss. They taught me to spin a pizza right. Their techniques were crazy! They’d hang it off a table and spin it until gravity would end up fixing it. We were able to do 16-18 inch pies that way. I also learned about the composition of dough. The first dough I bought was a yeasty dough from this real popular Italian wholesale place in town. It was all right, but it was very, very elastic. About a month or two in, strangely enough, I found out my 8th grade teacher now had his own little place. They made pepperoni balls and sold dough balls. He told me it was a great recipe and gave me some samples to try out. It was incredible.
I don’t know how he did it, but I remember it was phenomenal. It rose just enough but not too little, spun very easily and had the most soft, buttery texture I’d ever tasted. In fact, I hadn’t tasted something like that again until recently. We checked out the new Giant Eagle “Market District” store and bought one of their pizzas. The dough was really, really close to being the same, from taste to the way it rose. Come to find out, they sell the dough balls if you ask, so we decided to try our own at home.
It’s weird but this happens all the time: I won’t even be cooking or anything, just doing nothing, when something pops in my head and I start writing and one recipe leads to another. The one day I’m sitting there and I don’t know where it came from, but four or five pizza recipes popped into my head. With this one, the key to the pizza was the cantaloupe. Cantaloupe has to be super ripe, super sweet, and super flavorful. There are a lot of big ballers on this pizza but if you do it right, that sweet cantaloupe is what makes this pizza stand out.
Melon Prosciutto Pizza
To prepare your garlic mornay (base):
½ cup almond milk
½ cup water
1 cup garlic cheese, shredded
1 tsp. lemon juice
Bring milk, water, and juice to a simmer. Add cheese in 3 equal parts, whisking until melted. Set aside and cool.
To prepare the pizza:
Fresh dough ball
1 cup cantaloupe, small diced
1 cup smoked prosciutto, julienned
½ cup black beans
½ cup baby shrimp
1 cup smoked gouda, shredded
1 cup sharp white Vermont cheddar, shredded
If you’re using fresh dough, here’s a video that shows the basics of dough stretching. If you’d rather, feel free to use a store bought crust that’s ready to throw in the oven.
Spread an even layer of garlic mornay sauce on pizza and top with ½ of your cheese. Add black beans, prosciutto and melon. Finish with the rest of the cheese and the baby shrimp last (this will help the shrimp to completely cook). Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
I really liked the contrast from seafood to smoke to salt. You get a nice smoke from the cheese and prosciutto, salt from prosciutto, sweet from melon, and a nice garlic, almost herbaceous, from the lovely base. There are two things I’d do to make better. It was a great pizza don’t get me wrong! It came out perfect and everything worked well together, but if you want to take this to the next level and really make it a bomb pizza to impress your friends with, this is what I’d do: first, I’d add some romaine for texture and crunch (about 1 cup shredded). It would add a tiny bit of bitter, which would cut and freshen at the same time, and give you a bit of crunch with each bite. I’d also make a gastrique to drizzle on top:
1 cup sugar
½ cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup red wine
3 pints berries of choice (blackberry, raspberry, or cherry)
¼ tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
Aggressively simmer all ingredients until reduced by ½ to ¾. Strain. This mixture should thicken when cooled. Add gastrique and lettuce after baking pizza.